Yeah, sure there are some.
Probably the biggest disadvantage the 29 inch wheels have over their 26 inch brethren is that a larger wheel equates to more wheel weight. A 29er wheel made from the same material as a 26 inch wheel will always weigh more. Therefore, the lightest 29er wheels will weigh more than the lightest 26er wheels. Photo below courtesy of Wikipedia.
Major manufacturers of 29ers are limited. Cannondale, last year, came out with a geared hardtail 29er called Caffeine and there are rumors that Specialized may have a 29er in the works (although oddly enough they have a high volume 29er tire, the Resolution, with no in-house bike to wear it!). But Giant is still not on board and Trek decided to go half way with a singlespeed 69er (a 29 inch tire on the front and a 26 inch tire on the rear). Kudos to Gary Fisher for getting on the 29ers early and establishing itself as the largest manufacturer of 29ers along with the most complete lineup to date (singlespeed, aluminum hardtail, steel hardtail, full suspension).
Fork options are limited as well. White Brothers, Rock Shox, Pace, and Maverick compose the current manufacturers (that I know of) of 29er suspension forks. But some of the big boys haven’t come out to play yet, Fox? Marzochi? Manitou?
Currently Rock Shox probably makes the standard for 29er forks with their excellent Rebas. These air forks are light weight, plush, infinitely tuneable and sold at a great price. But there is more room for fork growth. The 29er is almost begging for a longer travel fork (Rebas limited to 100mm) because of it’s natural advantages in rollover ability and grip for the freeride and all mountain riders.
Rock Shox Reba SL 29 mounted on Gary Fisher X-Cal.
Tire options are also limited, but thankfully growing. The number of tires out there can not begin to compete with the selection of 26 inch tires currently available. But, there are choices which could not be said without a smirk last January.
Lastly, 29ers do not fit shorter riders as well as they do taller riders. Most people suggest that the 29er rider needs to be at least 5’6″ to ride a 29er. If not there are serious geometry issues for the shorter rider including toe overlap and (very important!) stand over height. But custom builders have been known to build 29ers for the shorter rider.
Should these hold you back from riding a 29er? In my humble opinion, no. The wheel weight disadvantage will always be there but unless you are racing professionally, where grams can determine podium placement, wheel weight will not take away from your enjoyment of riding a 29er.
The fact that the major manufacturers are not producing 29ers is really their loss. Some of our partners who are 29er advocates do have 29ers available:
And as I mentioned before, for the shorter riders custom is always available. Personally I think the advantages still outweigh the disadvantages and that’s why I own and enjoy riding the 29er.
What do you think? Are the disadvantages too much?